Entertaining this December? Here’s our spread of go-to easy party recipes to dip into – with absolutely no fiddling in the kitchen.
3 easy dips (or canapé toppers)
Finely grate the zest of 1 lemon and reserve the fruit for squeezing. Melt 75g unsalted butter in a small frying pan over a medium heat, stir in 300g white crab meat (or a mixture of white and brown) and heat through. Remove from the heat and add the lemon zest with a squeeze of juice, . tsp ground mace, ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper and a little salt if wished. Pack this into a shallow medium serving bowl, cover and chill for 1 hour or until firm. Melt 75g unsalted butter in a small pan and pour over the crab. Decorate with chopped chives. Cover and chill for several hours until set
Herby, lemony ricotta
In a processor whiz together 50g mixed mint and basil leaves, 3 chopped spring onions, 1 small peeled clove of garlic, 2 tbsp olive oil and a little salt to a paste. Add 250g drained ricotta and whiz again; finally add 1 tbsp lemon juice. Transfer this to a serving bowl, cover and chill until required. Drizzle over a little more oil and scatter with extra herbs, if wished, to serve as a canapé spread or with the dippers of your choice.
Hummus with tahini and pomegranate
Have ready or prepare 90g pomegranate seeds. Drain and rinse 2 x 400g cans chickpeas. Place the chickpeas in a food processor with a peeled sliced garlic clove and a little salt and whiz to a paste, gradually adding 100ml water through the funnel, until you have a thick purée. Now add 4 tbsp lemon juice and 150g tahini then continue to whiz until smooth and creamy. Add 2 tbsp olive oil, a drizzle of any juice given out by the pomegranate seeds and season to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl or plate, cover and chill. To serve, swirl the top, drizzle over more oil and scatter over the pomegranate seeds. Serve with triangles of toasted pitta or your choice of dippers.
3 no-work nibbles
One-bite party quiches
Preheat the oven to 200C/ 180C fan/gas 6. Arrange 24 mini croustade cases (for example Rahms brand) on a baking sheet spaced a little way apart. Finely grate 50g comté cheese. Coarsely chop 30g pitted black olives. Cut 2 slices prosciutto into 1cm dice. For the filling, whisk 1 large egg with 125ml single cream, 1 level tsp dijon mustard and some black pepper in a medium bowl then fold in the cheese. Divide the filling in two, stir the olives into one and the ham into the other, and use each to fill 12 croustade cases to just within the rim. Bake for 17-20 minutes until puffed and golden. Serve warm, with a sprinkling of chopped chives if wished.
Mustardy cocktail sausages
MAKES 12 SKEWERS
Preheat the oven to 210C/190C fan/gas 6.. Have ready 500g cocktail sausages (about 2 packs of 18). Thread the sausages on to skewers (3 per skewer), piercing them through the middle, as in the picture,and leaving a little space between them so they can cook evenly. Combine 2 tbsp dijon mustard and 2 tbsp set honey in a small bowl to make a glaze. Roast the skewers in the oven for 20-25 minutes, brushing them with the glaze after 10 minutes and turning occasionally until cooked and golden brown. Serve on their sticks with napkins and a mustardy mayonnaise (for example Maille) on the side.
Smoked salmon blinis
Make a flavoured butter by combining 75g softened lightly salted butter with . tsp very finely grated lemon zest and a few drops of lemon juice. Grind 20 saffron filaments, infuse with 1 teaspoon boiling water and combine with the butter. Chill briefly, keeping the butter spreadable. Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5, lay out 24 cocktail blinis on baking trays, warm through for 5 minutes, then leave to cool to room temperature for 20 minutes. Spread the blinis with the butter. Cut 150g sliced smoked salmon into small pieces. Top the buttered blinis with the smoked salmon, grind over a little black pepper, squeeze over a little lemon juice and decorate with chives and a few beads of salmon roe.
A boozy brownie
Christmas rum and chestnut chocolate bites
MAKES 1 TRAY FOR SLICING
Preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan/gas 3. Butter a 23cm brownie tin (or equivalent) then line the base and sides with baking paper, snipping the corners so the sides sit flat. Into a large bowl, sift 25g cocoa powder and 1 rounded tsp baking powder. Stir in 100g chestnut flour, 100g ground almonds and 100g demerara sugar then set aside. In a large bowl set over a pan containing a little simmering water, gently melt 200g dark chocolate (about 70 per cent) with 150g unsalted butter. Stir in 1 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tbsp dark rum (this is optional). In another large bowl whisk 4 medium eggs with 100g icing sugar for 4-5 minutes until pale, moussey and several times the volume. Lightly fold the chocolate mixture into the eggs in two goes, taking care not to over mix. Fold in the dry ingredients in two goes and transfer the mixture to the prepared tin. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted at the centre emerges with a few sticky crumbs. Leave to cool then cover and chill overnight. Remove from the tin and peel off the paper. Dust with icing sugar and a little cocoa and cut into 3cm-4cm squares (or larger if you wish).
3 festive fizzes
Chill a bottle of champagne, prosecco or other sparkling wine. Place 200g cranberries with 2 tbsp caster sugar and 150ml sieved fresh orange juice or clementine juice in a small pan and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes until soft then press through a fine sieve and leave to cool. You should have about 200ml of runny purée. Cover and chill. When ready to serve, give the purée a stir then spoon a generous tablespoonful into six flutes and fill up with bubbles. Decorate to your liking.
Bubbly kir normande
Chill a bottle of sparkling dry cider. Spoon a teaspoonful of cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) into 6 coupes or flutes and top up with the very cold cider. Alternatively, make up a jugful for pouring.
Chill a bottle of sparkling wine or cider. Purée 200g blackberries with 2 tbsp caster sugar in a blender then press through a fine sieve into a bowl. Cover and chill for a couple of hours. Divide the purée among six glasses (about 1 tbsp in each), fill up with fizz and decorate with extra blackberries if wished.
3 classic cocktails (and a pud in a glass)
Whizzed pina colada
Place 200g fresh pineapple chunks in a blender with 100g vanilla ice cream (or coconut ice cream) and 100ml chilled Malibu, whiz until smooth and press through a sieve into a jug or bowl. Add a heaped tablespoon of crushed ice to 2 x 250ml martini glasses and pour the cocktail over.
In a cocktail shaker or 500ml clip-top jar, place 50ml chilled Kahlúa or Tia Maria, 100ml chilled made espresso coffee and 6 ice cubes then shake vigorously for about 1 minute until the liquid is a ‘café crème’ colour. Strain into 2 x 200ml martini glasses and leave for about a minute for the foam to settle on the surface.
Negroni jelly in a glass
MAKES 6 MARTINI GLASSES OR ABOUT 20 SHOTS
Place 100g white caster sugar in a small pan with 500ml water and the zest of 1 orange (peeled in thick strips rather than grated). Juice a lemon and sieve the juice. Soak and drain 6 gelatine leaves (for example Dr Oetker) according to the packet. Bring the pan to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Pour the contents over the soaked gelatine and stir until this too dissolves. Stir in 75ml sweet vermouth, 75ml gin, 75ml Campari and the lemon juice then leave to cool to room temperature. Discard the orange zest and divide the jelly solution among 6 x 250ml martini glasses or tumblers (alternatively make 75ml shots). Cover with clingfilm and chill until set. When ready to serve, decorate with slices of clementine if wished. You could also include a slice of fruit within the jelly.
Spiced Dubonnet and lemon
Prepare 2 twists of orange zest: peel off 2 strips of orange peel about 15cm long. Trim the sides to give neat strips 5mm wide. Roll these up tightly into a coil, then pull out the centres to create corkscrew twists. Have ready 2 x 250ml martini glasses containing crushed or cubed ice to taste. Pop in the orange twists. Per cocktail, pour over 50ml Dubonnet, 1 tsp ginger wine and 20ml Grand Marnier or Cointreau. Top with a splash or two of good quality lemonade. Provide cinnamon sticks for twizzling and adding a hint of spice if wished.
Recipes: Annie Bell. Food styling: Clare Lewis. Styling: Sue Radcliffe.